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Optimization of microfluidic PET tracer synthesis with Cerenkov imaging

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Microfluidic technologies provide an attractive platform for the synthesis of radiolabeled compounds. Visualization of radioisotopes on chip is critical for synthesis optimization and technological development. With Cerenkov imaging, beta particle emitting isotopes can be localized with a sensitive CCD camera. In order for Cerenkov imaging to also serve as a quantitative tool, it is necessary to understand how material properties relevant to Cerenkov emission, namely, index of refraction and beta particle stopping power, affect Cerenkov light output. In this report, we investigate the fundamental physical characteristics of Cerenkov photon yield at different stages of [(18)F]FDG synthesis on the electrowetting on dielectric (EWOD) microfluidic platform. We also demonstrate how Cerenkov imaging has enabled synthesis optimization. Geant4, a Monte Carlo program applied extensively in high energy physics, is used to simulate Cerenkov photon yield from (18)F beta particles traversing materials of interest during [(18)F]FDG synthesis on chip. Our simulations show that the majority (approximately two-thirds) of the (18)F beta particle energy available to produce Cerenkov photons is deposited on the glass plates of the EWOD chip. This result suggests the possibility of using a single calibration factor to convert Cerenkov signal to radioactivity, independent of droplet composition. We validate our simulations with a controlled measurement examining varying ratios of [(18)O]H2O, dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), and acetonitrile (MeCN), and find a consistent calibration independent of solvent composition. However, the calibration factor may underestimate the radioactivity in actual synthesis due to discoloration of the droplet during certain steps of probe synthesis. In addition to the attractive quantitative potential of Cerenkov imaging, this imaging strategy provides indispensable qualitative data to guide synthesis optimization. We are able to use this imaging technique to optimize the mixing protocol as well as identify and correct for loss of radioactivity due to the migration of radioactive vapor outside of the EWOD heater, enabling an overall increase in the crude radiochemical yield from 50 ± 3% (n = 3) to 72 ± 13% (n = 5).

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